Friday 12 October 2012

'Yellow Ball' by Mandy Huggins

Maurice Matthews stood at the kitchen window, coffee cup in hand, and surveyed the clipped and manicured garden that his wife had bullied into submission. He yearned for a cottage garden; one that would offer herself up as a louche maiden, long stems swaying in the gentle breeze, scattering petals untidily across mossy paths.

Meredith Matthews swept into the kitchen and broke the spell; observing, not for the first time, that if he didn’t get a move on he would be late for work.

As he pushed his bicycle down the path he noticed a lone daisy that had dared to rear her pretty head at the edge of the lawn. She was only half awake, and the undersides of her slender white petals were stained pink. Maurice was not a gambling man, but if he were, he would have considered it a safe bet to assume that the tiny flower would be despatched to daisy heaven before he returned from work.

However his wife had not yet spotted the horticultural transgression, intent as she was upon the ginger tom cat that had leapt onto the roof of the garden shed. As quick as lightening she took a yellow ping pong ball from the basket on the window ledge - one of many that were there for that specific purpose - and threw it at the cat through the open kitchen door. The ball missed completely, glanced off the shed roof and sailed over the high hedge into the road. 

As Meredith reached for a second ball, she heard the squeal of brakes, followed by a dull thud. Not having her outdoor shoes on she was forced to go into the hallway to fetch them before she went to see what had happened in the street.

At the open doorway to the living room her eye was caught by a rumpled anti-macassar on Maurice’s chair back. She went in to straighten it and noticed that the crocheted cloth was looking a little worn. The decline of the anti-macassar was something that Meredith was still struggling to comes to terms with. It had become nigh on impossible to find them in the shops, and she was seriously considering crocheting her own.

She spotted a few other irregularities in the room. There were crumbs on the carpet by Maurice’s chair arm, and a rug fringe that had been kicked askew.  Engrossed in their correction, Meredith did not hear the ambulance pull up in the street outside. She did not see Maurice lifted onto a stretcher, his unconscious mind replaying a scene where a small yellow ball hit him squarely in the eye and sent his bicycle careering into the path of an oncoming car.

Eventually Meredith went into the hall for her sensible outdoor shoes. As she tied the laces, Maurice took his last breath in the back of the ambulance, and was carried upwards, unresisting, to a garden more lovely in its tumbled abandonment than any he had ever seen.

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